Don’t let misconceptions cause faith to waver

Abby Liebhaber

Throughout my life — 17 years —  I have quickly picked up on the fact that there are few forms of entertainment in a small town. 

The options become even slimmer when you are referring to a small southern town in Arkansas. However, there are always seasonal football games, mindless trips to Walmart, the occasional fair and, of course, church.

Where I’m from, attending church is built into the weekly routine for a lot of people. You’ll always find our local restaurants packed from the church crowds and notice a little more traffic on the roads every Sunday. This has always been one of the aspects that makes my town feel like home the most.

However, although Christianity can be a unifying concept, it is more divided than it seems. Of the three main denominations in my community, Catholic followers face the biggest stigma. Whether it’s a dirty look in public or just a wave of isolation, many Catholics who are open about their faith often feel belittled for it. 

Even worse, the act of exclusion is performed by all ages. Catholics are judged solely on attending the Catholic Church despite worshiping the same God as other Christians, not to mention the automatic judgment many Catholics receive based upon others’ misunderstanding of the pope’s role.

When comparing Catholicism to other popular religions, it is not difficult to spot where they differentiate. After speaking to a few of my non-Catholic friends on their views of the Catholic Church, I found that many of their responses were similar.

I often heard “eerie,” “cultish” and “ritualistic-like,” which are likely due to the negative reputation Catholicism has gained through social media and the movie industry. Another reoccurring answer I received had to do with the length and depth each Mass goes into as well as the “excessive traditions” we celebrate. 

To anyone familiar with the Church, these comments can be shocking and hurtful. We know most of the speculations are just rumors and false conclusions. Yes, our Masses are structured much differently than the worship in other traditions, and we all speak the same words aloud throughout Mass.

In addition, we do have celebrations that can cause Mass to go over at least 30 minutes or more. 

However, at the end of the day, we are attending Mass to serve God. Along with accepting the Eucharist, when Father says, “Therefore, go in peace; the Mass has ended,” we have received the blessing to continue discerning God’s call, and that is all that really matters. 

Despite knowing the true intentions behind the Mass, as a cradle Catholic, hearing what the outsiders have to say about my Church and beliefs can be quite diminishing.

These misconceptions, however, have not once made me doubt my faith. Instead of replying negatively or aggressively, I have found that replying with calmness and wisdom seems to go much further. We can allow a simple misunderstanding to become an eye-opening lesson. Also, there is no better opportunity to pursue God’s call by inviting others into your house of worship. 

Although these interactions may not always end up with ideal results, it is taking the initiative to do something about it that counts. Not to mention, there is satisfaction that comes with correcting a misconception, especially when it means much more than, “I told you so.” 

Romans 15:7 says, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you for the glory of God.” Here, St. Paul perfectly describes what unity in Christ is.

In and through Jesus, God has reconciled us to himself. We, in turn, are called to work toward reconciliation with others, including with other Christians.

While our forms of worship may vary, as Catholics we are united with other Christians in worshiping the same God. Let’s imitate Christ in the ways we welcome one another and, in that way, strive to be one with others who believe in him (John 17:21). Besides, isn’t that exactly what God calls us to do each day?

Abby Liebhaber is a junior at Pocahontas High School in Pocahontas. Her home parish is St. Paul Church.

Abbey Liebhaber

Abby Liebhaber attends Pocahontas High School in Pocahontas. Her home parish is St. Paul Church.

Latest from Columns